Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fa Gao Chinese Prosperity Cake

Fa gao (simplified Chinese: 发糕; traditional Chinese: 發粿; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hoat-koé) is a Chinese cupcake-like pastry, most commonly consumed on the Chinese new year, that is made of flour (usually rice flour), leavening (traditionally yeast, but can be chemical leavening), sugar or another sweetener, steamed (instead of baked), until the top splits into a characteristic "split top" of four segments. The batter is typically left to rest for fermentation prior to being steam-cooked.

The name of the cake is a pun, as "fa" means both "prosperity" and "raised (leavened)", so "fa gao" means both "prosperity cake" and "raised (leavened) cake". These cakes, when used to encourage prosperity in the new year, are often dyed bright colors. Chinese New Year also known as the "Spring Festival" (simplified Chinese 春节; traditional Chinese 春節; Pinyin: Chūn Jié) in modern Mainland China, is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. Celebrations traditionally run from the evening preceding the first day, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February. In 2017, the first day of the Chinese New Year is on Saturday, 28 January, initiating the year of the Rooster.

The New Year festival is centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities as well as ancestors. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mauritius and Australia, and the Philippines. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors.

Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely. Often, the evening preceding Chinese New Year's Day is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of "good fortune" or "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity". Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. Among about one third of the Mainland population, or 500 million Northerners, dumplings (especially those of vegetarian fillings) feature prominently in the meals celebrating the festival. Gung Hay Fat Choy Happy Lunar New Year 2017 The Year Of The Rooster.

Fa Gao Chinese Prosperity Cake Recipe From Knowing Food
Fa Gao

2 Cups Rice Flour
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 & 1/2 Cups Hot Water

3/4 Cups Plain Flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
2 to 4 Drops Red Food Coloring*

[Editor's Note: The red food coloring is optional. i have included it with the recipe as red is a traditional good luck color in Chinese culture. 2 to 4 drops is a suggested amount depending upon how deep a shade of red is desired.]

Sieve the dry ingredients [except the sugar] together. Add the sugar into the 1 & 1/2 cups of measured hot water and stir until sugar disolves. Mix the sugar water with the dry ingredients. Pour the mixture into molds [*cupcake paper should be placed in the molds prior to pouring]. A steamer is needed to cook the cakes. Bring the water in the steamer to a boil. Place molds into the steamer to steam on high heat for 25 minutes.


Text Credits: Wikipedia||Wikipedia||Knowing Food||Image Credit: YtowerCookingChannel

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gluten-Free Foods

luten-free. A phrase that has been known to have a polarizing response. i must confess that i was among those whose reaction upon hearing the phrase "gluten-free", was not a positive one. i was of the thought that most people going on ad nauseum about gluten-free dietary choices were extolling its virtues not because they truly had a health concern such as celiac disease, but rather because they wanted to sound hip & trendy, vis-a-vis the latest culinary trend---similar to when everyone & their nutritionist couldn't stop saying that acai should be a part of everyone's diet. That is not to say that acai is not beneficial but many were speaking of it as if you would surely drop dead sooner rather than later if it was not on your shopping list. As the saying goes 'never say never'---i am a recent convert to adding gluten-free items to my cupboard, refrigerator, and recipe file. i am fortunate in that i do not have celiac disease, but i have recently discovered the health benefits of incorporating gluten-free products to my dietary choices.

A few months ago i had tendonitis in my right metatarsal. The pain was intense. i was hoping for a cortisone injection but the doctor treating me declined to do so. When the doctor would not give me a specific reason as to why this treatment would not be given other than to say "I wouldn't recommend it" i decided to look for alternatives. i had an acupuncture treatment. An interesting experience. It offered some relief but the cost & travel time to the practitioner was prohibitive. Since we are what we eat, i researched which foods are natural anti-inflammatories. In addition to learning which foods are natural anti-inflammatories, i learned that gluten exacerbates inflammation. Even though i did not need or intend to go completely gluten-free, i discovered there were more foods and spices than i'd initially thought that were and/or could be made so. Rice, soy milk, pineapple, tumeric, ginger, crackers, cookies, pie shells, flour, cereal, etc.

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What precisely is gluten? From wikipedia: Gluten (from Latin gluten, "glue") is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.

Gluten is the composite of two storage proteins, gliadin and a glutenin, and is conjoined with starch in the endosperm of various grass-related grains. Worldwide, gluten is a source of protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein.

The fruit of most flowering plants have endosperms with stored protein to nourish embryonic plants during germination. True gluten is limited to certain members of the grass family. The stored proteins of maize and rice are sometimes called glutens, but their proteins differ from true gluten.

Gluten is extracted from flour by kneading the flour, agglomerating the gluten into an elastic network, a dough, and then washing out the starch. Starch granules disperse in cold/low-temperature water, and the dispersed starch is sedimented and dried. If a saline solution is used instead of water, a purer protein is obtained, with certain harmless impurities departing to the solution with the starch. Where starch is the prime product, cold water is the favored solvent because the impurities depart from the gluten.

In home or restaurant cooking, a ball of wheat flour dough is kneaded under water until the starch disperses out. In industrial production, a slurry of wheat flour is kneaded vigorously by machinery until the gluten agglomerates into a mass. This mass is collected by centrifugation, then transported through several stages integrated in a continuous process. About 65% of the water in the wet gluten is removed by means of a screw press; the remainder is sprayed through an atomizer nozzle into a drying chamber, where it remains at an elevated temperature a short time to evaporate the water without denaturing the gluten. The process yields a flour-like powder with a 7% moisture content, which is air cooled and pneumatically transported to a receiving vessel. In the final step, the collected gluten is sifted and milled to produce a uniform product. In August 2013, FDA issued a final rule, effective August 2014, that defined the term "gluten-free" for voluntary use in the labeling of foods as meaning that the amount of gluten contained in the food is below 20 parts per million.

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After trying several products, some of the gluten-free items that made the final cut for my shopping list are: Arrowhead Mills Organic Gluten-Free Pancake & Baking Mix [0g trans fat], Wholly Wholesome Gluten-Free 9"Pie Shells [2 to the package], Silk lactose and gluten-free milk, Applegate Naturals Gluten-Free Frozen Chicken Tenders, Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Wholegrain Cinnamon Raisin Bread and Gluten-Free Wholegrain White Bread, and my all-time fav for satisfying my sweet-tooth, Pillsbury Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough [Do Not Eat Raw].

Applegate Naturals Gluten-Free Frozen Chicken Tenders are very tasty but the amount of strips compared to the yield i get when making them from scratch means a preference for making from scratch to save some scratch. Instead of breasts i used boneless skinless thighs [less fat].

sookietex' Gluten-Free Fried Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs Recipe

2 pkgs of 4 pieces boneless skinless
chicken thighs
3 large eggs
1/2 cup Silk Gluten-Free Lactose Free Milk
Honey [approx 1 teaspoon; this ingredient's
measurement is drizzled to taste]
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup Arrowhead Mills Organic Gluten-Free
Pancake & Baking Mix
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
[When i cook i'm of the pinch/dash school
i sometimes use more sometimes less
than the measurements indicated
]

Lightly beat the eggs, add to the milk and honey mixture to create a batter. Thoroughly rinse then pierce the chicken pieces and place into the batter. In a separate bowl combine the gluten-free mix and other dry ingredients. Transfer the chicken from the batter to the seasoned gluten-free mixture. Thoroughly coat chicken. Coat frying pan [preferably a non-stick pan] with vegetable oil. If more than 4 Tablespoons of oil are needed, add as necessary. Fry chicken for 20 mins [or until thoroughly done] on each side. Covering the pan while frying is suggested to retain moistness & reduce oil splatter. As always when frying take care to not be splattered by hot oil. Side dish serving suggestion: turmeric seasoned rice with mushrooms peas vidalia and red onion.



Text Credit: Wikipedia || Image Credit: The Letter G

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gazpacho

Gazpacho (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡaθˈpatʃo, ɡahˈpatʃo]) is a soup made of raw vegetables and served cold, usually with a tomato base, originating in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. Gazpacho is widely eaten in Spain and neighbouring Portugal (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɡɐʃˈpaʃu], spelling gaspacho), particularly during the hot summers, as it is refreshing and cool.

Gazpacho has ancient roots. There are a number of theories of its origin, including as an Arab soup of bread, olive oil, water and garlic that arrived in Spain and Portugal with the Moors, or via the Romans with the addition of vinegar. Once in Spain, it became a part of Andalusian cuisine, particularly Córdoba and Seville, using stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt, and vinegar, similar to ajoblanco.

There are many modern variations of gazpacho, often in different colors and omitting the tomatoes and bread in favor of avocados, cucumbers, parsley, watermelon, grapes, meat stock, seafood, and other ingredients. In Andalusia, most gazpacho recipes typically include stale bread, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, water, and salt.

Traditionally, gazpacho was made by pounding the vegetables in a mortar with a pestle; this more laborious method is still sometimes used as it helps keep the gazpacho cool and avoids the foam and the completely smooth consistency created by blenders and food processors. A traditional way of preparation is to pound garlic cloves in a mortar, add a little soaked stale bread, then olive oil and salt, to make a paste. Then very ripe tomatoes and vinegar are added.

In the historical description of gazpacho it was remarked [by whom?] that the original recipe uses bread, water, vinegar, oil and salt. This recipe is very old in the Iberian Peninsula, going back to Roman times.[citation needed] Every Andalusian region or comarca has its own variety. The humble gazpacho became a very deeply rooted food for peasants and shepherds in the south of Spain.

The basic gazpacho gave rise to many variants, some also called gazpacho, others not; some authors have tried to classify all these variations. Gazpachos may be classified by colour: the most usual red ones (which contain tomato), white ones (which contain no tomato, but include dried fruits), and green ones (which are white but contain some spices that make them green). These variants have their basic ingredients in common, garlic paste which works as an emulsifier, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt. To the traditional ingredients red fruits such as strawberries, muskmelon, etc., may be added, making the gazpacho a bit sweeter.
Gazpacho may be served as a starter, main dish, or tapa.

Ingredients, texture, and how thick the gazpacho is made vary regionally and between families. Similar cold raw soups such as salmorejo, porra antequerana and ajoblanco, are also popular in Andalusia, although not as widespread as gazpacho.

Gazpacho manchego, despite its name, is a meat stew, served hot, not a variation on the cold vegetable soup.

Gazpacho Recipe From Wikibooks Cookbook
Gazpacho

1 lb tomatoes
1/2 lb green bell peppers
1/2 cucumber
clove of garlic
[Optional for thicker
soup: 2 oz white bread]
2-3 days old

1/2 mild Spanish onion
1 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 pt iced water
sea salt and black pepper
ice cubes
1/4 chili pepper [seeds removed]
cilantro
Garni:
1 tomato, skinned
1/2 green pepper
1/4 peeled cucumber
cubed bread

Skin the tomatoes and cut into quarters. Remove seeds and stalks from peppers. Peel the cucumber and cut into chunks. Tear up the bread and soak it in water for 30 minutes and then squeeze it dry. Cut up the onion.

Blend all the ingredients until roughly chopped, not too fine, because the soup should have texture and discernible vegetable bits. Pour into large bowl with some ice, add salt and pepper. Then prepare the garni. Dice the bread and fry it in a little olive oil until brown. Chop the other vegetables finely. Serve in separate little bowls on the table, so that guests can sprinkle on their own toppings.

Serve chilled.


Text Credits: Wikipedia || Gazpacho Wikibooks Cookbook

Image Credit: Gazpacho: Photo by centerbilder wikimedia CreativeCommons